I want this blog post to be a challenge. In the New Church, we embrace the teaching that God does not condemn anyone for ignorance of Him; that people who do not know Him as the Lord Jesus Christ, who are ignorant of His Word, can be saved, because if they have lived as well as they can in love to the neighbor and love to God, they will embrace Him as God after death, since “those who do the truth come to the light” (John 3:21).
These are beautiful teachings, illustrating God’s mercy. And yet. I think we overemphasize these teachings. I think these teachings are about the Lord’s mercy for those who are in ignorance – but they are not about people who have the Word and are in some sense “within the Church,” or “within Christianity,” or “within the Christian world.” Now, there are a lot of other passages and teachings to take into account. I wrote a longer blog post including some of these, but decided not to publish it. For now, I simply want to present these passages, without caveats (although with emphasis added by me).
In the following work, by the name Lord is meant the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, and Him only; and He is called “the Lord” without the addition of other names. Throughout the universal heaven He it is who is acknowledged and adored as Lord, because He has all sovereign power in the heavens and on earth. He also commanded His disciples so to call Him, saying, “Ye call Me Lord, and ye say well, for I am” (John 13:13). And after His resurrection His disciples called Him “the Lord.” (Arcana Coelestia 14)
From this can be seen what is the lot of those in the other life who have been born within the church and yet at heart deny the Lord, whatever may be their quality as to moral life. By much experience also it has been given to know that they cannot be saved; which the Lord also teaches openly in John: “He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). But with regard to the nations outside the church, those who have lived from their religion in some kind of charity toward their neighbor, and in some kind of love to God the Creator of the universe under a human form, are in the other life accepted by the Lord and are saved; for when instructed by angels these acknowledge the Lord, and believe in Him, and love Him. (Arcana Coelestia 10112)
From all this it is evident that by “the sons of Israel keeping the Sabbath to perform the Sabbath to their generations,” is signified the acknowledgment of the Divine Itself in the Lord’s Human in each and all things of worship. The reason why this is an essential of the church, and consequently an essential of its worship, is that the salvation of the human race depends solely upon this union. Moreover the Lord came into the world for the sake of effecting this union. Therefore also in its inmost sense the whole Word treats of this, and the rituals of the church instituted among the sons of Israel represented it and signified it.  That the salvation of the human race is therefrom, consequently that this acknowledgment is an essential of the church and of its worship, the Lord teaches in many passages, as in John: “He that believeth in the Son hath eternal life; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36; also verses 15, 16; 6:40; 11:25, 26; 20:31). “The Son” denotes the Divine Human of the Lord. The reason why those have no eternal life who do not from faith acknowledge the Lord, is that the whole heaven is in this acknowledgment; for the Lord is the Lord of heaven and earth, as He teaches in Matthew: “All power hath been given unto Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18); and therefore heaven is closed to those who do not acknowledge Him; and he who does not make acknowledgment in the world (that is, he within the church), does not make it in the other life. Such is the state of man after death. (Arcana Coelestia 10370)Those who have been born within the church ought to acknowledge the Lord, His Divine and His Human, and to believe in Him and love Him, because all salvation is of the Lord. ….Wherefore those who within the church do not acknowledge the Lord and His Divine, cannot be conjoined with God, and thus cannot have any lot with the angels in heaven, for no one can be conjoined with God except by the Lord and in the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia 10817, 10818)
Those within the church who have denied the Lord and have acknowledged the Father only, and have confirmed themselves in that belief, are not in heaven; and as they are unable to receive any influx from heaven, where the Lord alone is worshiped, they gradually lose the ability to think what is true about any subject whatever; and finally they become as if dumb, or they talk stupidly, and ramble about with their arms dangling and swinging as if weak in the joints. Again, those who, like the Socinians, have denied the Divinity of the Lord and have acknowledged His Humanity only, are likewise outside of heaven; they are brought forward a little towards the right and are let down into the deep, and are thus wholly separated from the rest that come from the Christian world. Finally, those who profess to believe in an invisible Divine, which they call the soul of the universe [Ens universi], from which all things originated, and who reject all belief in the Lord, find out that they believe in no God; since this invisible Divine is to them a property of nature in her first principles, which cannot be an object of faith and love, because it is not an object of thought. (Heaven and Hell 3)
The two essentials of the New Church are that the Lord alone is the God of heaven and earth, and that His Human is Divine; and that men ought to live according to the precepts of the Decalogue (Apocalypse Revealed 485).
Hereafter no one from among Christians enters heaven unless he believes in the Lord God the Savior, and approaches Him alone. (True Christian Religion 107)
Those in Christendom [or Christianity – Latin “Christianismo”] who reject the Lord and the Word have no faith, although they live morally, and even speak, teach, and write rationally about faith. This follows as a conclusion from all that precedes; for it has been shown that the true and only faith is faith in the Lord and from the Lord, and that a faith that is not a faith in and from Him, is not a spiritual but a natural faith, and merely natural faith has not the essence of faith in it. Moreover, faith is from the Word; it is from no other source, since the Word is from the Lord, and consequently the Lord Himself is the Word. (True Christian Religion 384)